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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  September 14, 2010 4:30pm-5:00pm PST

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on our broadcast here tonight, the pay gap between men and women -- there's been a big change, the question is is it good news? first response -- what it sounded like when those first frantic reports started surfacing that an entire california neighborhood was on fire after that colossal explosion. best medicine -- teens are using common cough medicines to get high, but tonight, a surprising decision about a possible solution. and top secret -- what we now know was going on in the background in some of the most famous images of the civil rights era. famous images of the civil rights era. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
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good evening. it's always been a huge gulf in american society and in our workforce, especially, what men and women are paid for the same work. tonight, we can report the numbers have moved. though the reason for it isn't good. figures from this year show women earned 83 cents on the dollar compared to what men earn. that's the highest number ever recorded. the bad news is the reason for it. the economy is in such crummy shape, a ton of men have been hard hit and many women in turn have prospered in this economy. still, in terms of women's income and earning power in the u.s., the number represents a victory, a milestone, and it's where we begin tonight with nbc's michelle kosinski. she's in miami beach for us tonight. michelle, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. we're here at a start-up software company started by a woman. and in this economy with men outnumbering women on the
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unemployment line, this year for the first time ever, women outnumber men in the american workforce. they outnumber men at colleges and now some might say a milestone that really counts, that long debated wage gap between men and women is the smallest it has ever been. across america, women are more than ever a workforce to be reckoned with. making headway against the relentless wage gap, by earning almost 83 cents to every dollar earned by a man. ten years ago it was 76. in 1979, 62 cents. >> makes it sound pretty good. >> 22-year-old nurse lauren kerry in miami found success in an in-demand career. >> within 24 hours of graduation, i had my first offer. >> lauren is in the age group of women earning more, 8% more than young single men in most of america's big cities. >> women are earning more because they're better educated so they can get better occupations with higher wages.
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they're taking less time off during child bearing years and there has been a decline in overt gender discrimination. >> reporter: look at the last three decades. wages for white women have risen 32%. 25% for black women, 18% for hispanic. but for men, they've only risen 3% for whites, not at all for black men and have fallen 6% for hispanics. in chicago, 33-year-old corporate lawyer deidre norris is climbing the ladder steadily but looking back at her male counterparts. >> i encountered in my profession more african-american female attorneys than i have african-american male attorneys. >> reporter: part of this is working women have weathered the economy better. but manufacturing, construction, dominated by men has been among the hardest hit. and that affects women, too. >> women are more likely to be the primary or the only breadwinners for the family right now. >> reporter: in new york, this
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38-year-old doctor and mother knows it's a balance. >> we all have expectations about taking care of children and home care and we need men to step up to the plate. >> reporter: we're still talking about a wage gap. that means it still exists. that means household income in this country continues to erode. is this progress? absolutely, though some would be quick to point out that a woman's 83 cents still does not a dollar make. brian? >> michelle kosinski starting us off from miami beach tonight, thanks. a bit more on the economy before we move on. retail sales rose 0.4% in august. the biggest gain in five months usually means back to school shopping is robust. on wall street, the dow broke a four session winning streak closing down a bit, almost 18 points, but gold prices have skyrocketed to new all-time highs, up more than $24 an ounce worth now trading north of $1,200 an ounce.
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now we turn to california where for the first time we're hearing what it sounded like when that gas explosion levelled part of a neighborhood in san bruno, south of san francisco. and we're hearing it from the perspective of the first responders who were trying to make sense of what they were seeing and hearing what was going on there. again, tonight, our own miguel almaguer is in san bruno for us this evening. good evening. >> good evening. that dinner time blast claimed lives and destroyed the community behind me. we're only about three miles away from san francisco international airport and after the explosion just about everyone here feared the worst. >> it appears we have a plane down in a neighborhood, multiple structures on fire and we have a fireball still coming out. >> reporter: as firefighters raced towards the flames, the blast sent neighbors running for their lives. >> it was a pretty chaotic scene going down the hill, people
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running up the hill, just trying to get out. >> reporter: the heat was so intense, the inferno so massive, it took nearly a half hour to determine this was no plane crash. >> it does not appear this is an aircraft down. it appears that this is some sort of natural gas explosion. >> reporter: the cause of thursday's gas line rupture that killed at least four people is still under investigation. >> i grew up here. i work here, and it's my family. >> reporter: firefighter john friolo. >> you're seeing people run up to you, they're burnt, they're looking at us for help and right then and there we didn't have the resources. >> reporter: chaos and confusion and then no way to fight the fire. >> we think we got a broken water main down here so they need to lay in from the corner of san bruno avenue. >> it's a sinking feeling to say the least because you count on that water being there and if there was ever a time when you needed it, it was there. >> reporter: this neighborhood burned for a day and a half.
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by the time crews beat back the flames, nearly 40 homes were destroyed, hundreds more damaged. federal investigators have wrapped up their probe in the blast zone behind me. we're told their preliminary report could take about 30 days and while at least four people are dead tonight, brian, another three are still missing. >> miguel almaguer on the job in san bruno, california, again tonight. thanks for that. overseas tonight, the american hiker sarah shourd is free tonight after more than a year in a famous prison there in iran. but the story isn't over. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell is in tehran reporting on the faith of shourd and the two american men who traveled with her still being held captive there tonight. andrea, good evening. >> good evening, brian, 32-year-old sarah shourd is a free woman tonight after more than a year in an iranian prison, even while her fiance shane bauer and their friend josh fattal remain behind bars.
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not quite home, but reunited with her mother and uncle. after an international rescue as dramatic as her capture 14 months ago. when the three hikers say they accidently crossed an unmarked border into iran. pale and thin after her ordeal, sarah shourd said she was grateful even to iran for letting her go. >> i want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all the governments, all the people who have been involved and especially particularly want to address president ahmadinejad and the iranian officials that have really just leaders and thank them for this humanitarian gesture. >> reporter: but in a carefully staged interview with an adviser to president ahmadinejad, shourd pointedly appealed for the release of her fiance shane bauer and their friend josh fattal, both 28 years old. >> i have a huge debt to repay the world for what it's done for me and my first priority is to help my fiance shane bauer and
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my friend josh fattal to gain their freedom because they don't deserve to be in prison anymore. >> reporter: tonight in new york, josh's mother laura fattal. >> i'm very happy but it was very bittersweet because i want to have that same happiness and i know cindy does, too, and we want josh and shane home as soon as possible. >> reporter: last january, shane and sarah became engaged in the prison yard during the one hour a day she wasn't in solitary confinement. the ring? some string he pulled together and tied into a knot. now, they're separated again. as she was swept from prison to a sleek private jet owned by the government of oman. did the wealthy gulf state pay the $500,000 bail iran was demanding which the u.s. refused to pay? >> you're asking if money has changed hands and the short answer is we don't know. >> reporter: tonight, iran said that it released sarah shourd on compassionate grounds because she had medical problems but the
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prosecutor here said that the two men will have to stand trial on charges of spying. brian? >> andrea, as we were watching this unfold, even before you left to go there, all these fits and starts. she's not being released, then she's being released. what's going on the whole time behind the scenes? >> reporter: well, there are reports of divisions in the government here in the regime and the judiciary wanting to keep her in jail but president ahmadinejad and his supporters won out and she finally was released, but it certainly has raised a lot of concerns and a lot of issues about what is really going on here. >> andrea mitchell on the job and on the story in tehran tonight. andrea, thanks. we switch back to this country, primary day today, seven states and the district of columbia. here in new york what could be a big story in the days ahead, lot of problems with voting machines reported today. now on the political front, what a lot of people are watching closely is whether voters are in an anti-washington, anti-establishment mood. they're watching what happens
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tonight in delaware, for example, with great attention where there's an important gop senate primary, it's where our own kelly o'donnell is stationed tonight. kelly, good evening. >> reporter: hi, brian. well, the polls have closed here in delaware and this small state could have big implications for what's happening around the country. officials tell us about 30,000 republicans will vote in this closed senate primary. what they decide could tell us about the tea party movement and republican establishment. the state party got behind a republican who has won more races here than any other republican in delaware's history. they wanted him to get the nomination, but the tea party and sarah palin backed christine o'donnell who has never won a race and she has been challenged for her qualifications. castle said she didn't have the ability to be a senator, but she has come on strong with the support of tea party money and a boost from palin. now this is all very important
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because we are talking about joe biden's senate seat. republicans believe this was a great opportunity for them to try to take that back from democrats. and democrats believe that this is a place they can hold if a tea party conservative is chosen. so mike castle is the one that the establishment wants. if he wins many here say he has a better chance to win in november. hard to tell yet, brian. >> kelly o'donnell in delaware yet. kelly, thanks. hurricane season fully under way all across the atlantic tonight. two big hurricanes -- igor a julia -- swirling in the a midd of the tocean. now tropical storm karl appears ready to join the mix. igor still a big and dangerous category four storm could sideswipe bermuda this weekend. juli category one, not a threat to land. but karl could strengthen into a
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hurricane and threaten the coast of mexico in the next coming few days. when our broadcast continues in just a moment on a tuesday night, are some common medicines now sold over the counter about to be put behind the pharmacy counter? and later, he took some of the most iconic pictures of the u.s. civil rights era. all the while, he had a stunning secret. ju
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we're back. we mentioned this at the top of the broadcast, a decision that surprised some people late this afternoon, despite an alarming number of teenagers who are using common over-the-counter cough medicines to get high, a government panel considering whether or not to recommend a prescription to buy them has decided that it is not a good idea for now. our own tom costello has more on the decision and the problem. >> reporter: it's a teenage craze that's fuelled in large part by the internet. thousands of teens posting video of themselves robotripping,
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getting high on cough medicines like robitussin that contain the key ingredient dextromethorphan also known as dex or dxm. >> on dex, i feel like going -- >> reporter: health experts say it's become a national problem with 8% of all teenagers admitting they have tried it. 8,000 e.r. visits in 2008, up 74% in four years. symptoms can range from mild intoxication to a far more serious irregular heartbeat, seizure, loss of consciousness and brain damage. despite being an er nurse, misty never saw the signs that her 18-year-old son carl was abusing cough syrup. he died after mixing it with drugs. >> i noticed an empty bottle of cough syrup in the back seat of his car, but unfortunately by the time i had gotten to his room i discovered he had passed away during the night. >> reporter: today in washington, an fda panel heard testimony about the abuse of dextromethorphan.
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>> deo has reported to us increasing problems related to the drug's abuse. >> reporter: and whether cough medicine should require a prescription. but the cough medicine industry opposes that, insisting these medicines are very safe, abuse is low and harm from abuse is rare. millions of americans depend on the dozens of cough medicines that contain dxm as an ingredient. already some national chains refuse to sell those to under 18. today, the advisory panel recommended against requiring prescriptions for cough medicine, but the fda could decide to place age restrictions on buying cough medicines. the question is whether any action would be warranted or instead an overreaction. brian? tom costello from our washington bureau tonight. tom, thanks. we'll take a break. when we come back, what's in a name? which common household ingredient is anxious to be known as something else?
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for the second straight year, president obama addressed the nation's school students today. you may recall it was hugely controversial last year as critics feared kids would somehow be indoctrinated, nothing of that sort this year. the white house released his remarks a day early so educators could all see what he was going to say. there was a lot about hard work and making the effort specifically and what it was like, as he put it, growing up a skinny kid with ears that stuck out with a funny name. reggie bush is giving back
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his heisman trophy, college football's top honor, awarded to him in '05 at usc, bush, these days, the great new orleans saints running back, gave the heisman back after the ncaa determined he had received improper benefits and should have been ineligible for the '05 season. rather than being stripped of it, he's giving it back. the first time a heisman has been returned by its recipient. the folks who make high fructose corn syrup would like it to be known by another name, corn sugar. the industry wants to stop the confusion as they put over the sweetener, specifically the perception it's somehow more harmful than ordinary sugar. they say what they produce has been disparaged and misunderstood. the federal government is making its own decision on the name what to call it. while we're talking a lot about women and men on the broadcast tonight, there's this -- who do you think is more diligent at hand washing in rest rooms? men or women?
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well, you're right, 93% of women wash their hands, in a recent study, while the number fell to only 77% of men. the overall number could use improvement but it's the best rate of hand washing in over a decade. according to the folks who track such things. up next, what you couldn't see in the pictures of an entire era in america.
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you may remember when we profiled him right here on this broadcast about a month back, zach bonner, a 12-year-old florida boy, set out to make a difference by walking across this nation to raise awareness of homeless children. this is the day zach reaches the finish line, santa monica, california. nearly 2,500 miles away from where he started out. there's a stunning report tonight that an african-american photographer who took some of the most recognizable images from the civil rights era was doing double duty all the while by acting as an informant on the likes of the reverend dr. martin luther king jr. and others. our own ron mott has more on these revelations about the
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photographer ernest withers and the reaction to it. >> reporter: the times were turbulent, the nation was on everyone and he was there, up close and personal. the pictures he took during the civil rights movement, unlike anyone else's, he had tremendous access, yet none of his famous and not so famous subjects knew he was collecting more than snapshots, the centerpiece of a special report called double exposure in the memphis commercial appeal, withers was also allegedly on the payroll of j. edgar hoover's fbi as informant number me338r. withers died three years ago. >> what was going on in the heart of a man who was a strong believer and supporter of civil rights but at the same time was working hand-in-hand with the fbi? >> reporter: the newspaper used federal documents to chronicle withers' front lines of coverage of the civil rights movement. >> anybody who might possibly threaten the establishment or might be a celebrity of any kind and this was a good conduit for getting that information.
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>> while the fbi was using him, he was using the fbi. >> reporter: the reverend joseph lowery is among those withers documented. >> i still would like to think that he understood that there was nothing he could do or give the fbi that could be used to hurt us. to hurt the movement. i believe that about ernest. >> reporter: the works of ernest withers have been in high demand for decades at museums and galleries around the country including this one here in atlanta. in fact, the ernest withers museum is set to open in his old beale street studio in memphis. the allegations are a blow to withers' family, fearful they could stain his legacy. >> he left images that are in our minds giving us a true picture of what took place. and to say that he betrayed african-americans is a false statement. >> reporter: images of the country's troubled history and the man behind them, drawing new headlines decades later.
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ron mott, nbc news, atlanta. and that's our broadcast on a tuesday evening. thank you as always for being here with us. i'm brian williams. and we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. and we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- dramatic dispatch calls being heard for the first time tonight at nbc bay area gets exclusive information on the explosion of natural gas pipelines. good evening, i'm lisa kim. >> and i'm tom sinkovitz. >> we have several reports on the san bruno explosion tonight


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